Should a Healthy Church Grow?


Are you struggling to see your church grow despite your best efforts? Learn how prioritizing discipleship and fostering a healthy church environment can lead to natural, sustainable growth.


Growing a “Church” is Easy

You don’t need Jesus to grow a following or fill a building. But you don’t want to just “fill a church.” You’re leading a church to lead people to grow in their faith.

You want to lead a healthy church.

Church Growth the Right Way

When pastors and ministry mentors like me discuss church growth, the conversation often gravitates toward numbers—attendance figures, small group participation, and financial contributions. While these metrics are essential, they shouldn’t be the primary focus of a church’s mission. After all, these metrics are not the mission of any church.

Yet, in many ways, metrics and measurements display the fruit or outcome of a church’s health. In other words, positive metrics are the outcome of a healthy church. At least, that’s my thesis.

Here’s what I want to explore: Should a healthy church naturally grow as a byproduct of its vitality and vibrancy?

The Foundations of a Healthy Church

Let’s define church health.

A healthy church excels in several key areas: spiritual growth, community engagement, and leadership development. We could argue about the exact terms and definitions of what makes a healthy church, but a church with these four foundational aspects creates an environment where growth is not just possible but inevitable.

  1. Spiritual Growth: A congregation’s collective spiritual maturity is paramount. Churches that prioritize teaching, preaching, and active discipleship foster an atmosphere where individuals can grow in their faith. As people grow spiritually, they become more committed and invested in the church’s life, leading to organic growth​.
  2.  Community Engagement: A church that is active in its community and meets the needs of its neighbors will attract those looking for a place to belong and serve. Community engagement helps a church become a beacon of hope and support, naturally drawing people in​.
  3. Leadership Development: Developing leaders within the church ensures that capable individuals are ready to guide and support the congregation as it grows. Churches that invest in and prioritize leadership development often see sustainable growth because they are prepared to handle the complexities that come with it​.

The One Thing Healthy Churches Do Well

It’s simple to define, but it can be extremely complicated to get right. Conceptually, all healthy churches do one thing well: inspire steps of discipleship.

That’s really it. Discipleship is an individual faith journey.

Remember, holistic discipleship begins well before conversion and never fully ends (the transforming of our mind). The Christian journey starts before we’re believers and continues throughout our earthly life. This is the Great Commission in action.

With this in mind, I believe it’s safe to suggest that a healthy church naturally grows as a byproduct of its discipleship effectiveness.


People Love Talking About and Engaging In The Things They Love

Healthy churches provide environments where people want to be involved, feel spiritually nourished, and see the tangible impact of their efforts. When this happens, it’s hard to stop people from sharing their church with their friends and neighbors and growing in their personal engagement.

Healthy churches create organic growth through:

  1. Natural Attraction: A healthy church naturally attracts visitors and new members. People are drawn to communities where they feel loved, supported, and challenged to grow. Healthy churches often have robust visitor engagement strategies that make newcomers feel welcome and integrated into the community quickly​.
  2. Sustainable Practices: Growth in a healthy church is sustainable because it is built on solid foundations. Churches that focus on spiritual health, effective discipleship, and community engagement are better equipped to handle the challenges that come with growth. They are not just increasing in number but also in depth and maturity​.
  3. Multiplication: Healthy churches often reach a point where growth leads to multiplication. This could mean planting new churches, starting new ministries, or expanding current ones. Multiplication indicates that a church’s health is robust enough to replicate its success in new contexts​.

Evaluating Your Discipleship Pathway

Here’s where all those metrics and dashboards often leave us wanting.

Attendance, giving, volunteer participation, and the like are healthy to measure, but individually, they don’t necessarily measure church health in totality.

Where does that leave us? Let me offer you 5 ways to take a deeper look at your churches discipleship effectiveness.

1. Assess the Current State of Discipleship

Survey Your Congregation: Conduct surveys to gather feedback from church members about their discipleship experiences. Questions should cover personal spiritual growth, involvement in small groups, and overall satisfaction with the church’s discipleship programs.

Analyze Participation Rates: Include participation rates in discipleship activities like small groups, Bible studies, and mentorship programs. High participation rates typically indicate effective discipleship efforts or at least indicate that people are taking discipleship steps.

Evaluate Spiritual Growth: Use tools such as spiritual growth assessments or personal reflection guides to help members evaluate their own spiritual progress over time. This can provide insights into how well the church is facilitating spiritual growth.

2. Review Discipleship Content and Structure

Pathway Clarity: Assess how clearly the discipleship pathway is designed and communicated to church members. A well-defined path should outline steps from initial engagement to deep spiritual maturity. This includes clear entry points, milestones, and opportunities for further growth and involvement.

Curriculum Review:

    1. Examine the content and structure of your discipleship programs.
    2. Ensure that the curriculum is biblically sound, relevant, and designed to meet your congregation’s diverse needs, including its faith diversity.
    3. Look for gaps in the material and areas where additional resources might be needed.
3. Measure Discipleship Outcomes

Track Engagement Steps: Monitor key engagement changes in discipleship pathway offerings, volunteer engagement, and participation in church life. Measuring steps and trends is how we evaluate discipleship effectiveness.

Antidotal Spiritual Health Indicators: Look for indicators of spiritual health in your congregation, such as increased Bible knowledge, more frequent prayer, greater involvement in ministry, and evidence of personal transformation. Testimonials and personal stories can be powerful indicators of effective discipleship.

4. Evaluate Leadership Development

Leadership Pipeline: Assess how well your discipleship programs are developing new leaders. A practical discipleship pathway should produce individuals ready to take on leadership roles within the church. This includes tracking the number of new leaders and their progression through various stages of leadership development.

Mentorship and Coaching: Evaluate the presence and effectiveness of mentorship and coaching within your discipleship programs. Strong mentorship relationships are crucial for deep, lasting discipleship impact.

5. Solicit Feedback and Make Adjustments

Regular Feedback Loops: Establish regular feedback loops with participants to continually assess the effectiveness of your discipleship programs. This can be done through surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one conversations.

Continuous Improvement: Use the feedback and data collected to adjust your discipleship approach as needed. This might involve updating the curriculum, changing program structures, or providing additional leadership training.

By taking these steps, your church can effectively evaluate its discipleship approach, ensuring it remains a vital, life-giving part of your ministry that drives overall church health and growth.


In conclusion, while growth should not be the primary focus of a church, it is certainly a desirable outcome of church health. By prioritizing discipleship, churches can create environments where growth happens naturally. Healthy churches grow because they provide what people are looking for: a place to belong, grow, and make a difference.